Last Sunday I made arrangements to have coffee then train with my elder disciple brother, Levi. He teaches Practical Method at The University of Iowa’s Chinese Martial Arts Club. We decided to train during his regularly scheduled class time as it provided a good space to practice. A new student arrived wanting to check out the class. Introductions were made. He was a visiting professor originally from China. After some discussion the gentleman disclosed he studied Hong Style Taijiquan for 7 years. Levi and I exclaimed that is the lineage we practice under our Shifu, Master Chen Zhonghua. He stated he studied under a disciple of GM Hong Junsheng and one of his grand-disciples, both Levi and I not having any knowledge of this Master.
Levi started the class with positive circles; the new student said “oh, cloud hands”. As I was doing my circles, he said I was doing it wrong because I wasn’t moving my waist. He started demonstrating how he did circles and, to be candid, I thought “what are you talking about, my inattentive adolescent students adhere to the principle better” as his hand went out, his torso and shoulders grossly tossed. Levi was quick to respond, explaining why we “don’t move”, only to fall upon deaf ears. He immediately went into a physical explanation that left the new student on the floor. He said, as he stood up, we were doing different styles of taiji as he, and we were “too hard”. Levi exclaimed, “no, it is the same lineage of taiji!” As Levi demonstrated the principles; it became clear he wasn’t here to learn, it was a challenge.
Levi let the principles of Practical Method do the talking by pushing hands with him. The challenger was “put on the chopping block” between Levi’s leg andleaving him on the ground several times. The last time the challenger was tossed to the floor, with force, he submitted, expressing he “had enough”. Levi said, “I am willing to be your teacher, but if you are not willing to learn, leave now…I mean go!” He went and stood in the corner, watching our practice…towards the end he came back to join us, with a more subtle attitude, willing to learn or at least follow instructions.
Later on we learned the said master, whose teachings the challenger followed, had his discipleship from Grand Master Hong revoked. It became clear to Levi and me that he wasn’t taught the principles that are inherit to Grand Master Hong’s teachings, and transmitted to Master Chen. It also became clear, though Levi caught on much sooner than I; the new student did not arrive with an open mind to learn, but rather, a hidden agenda to prove himself superior, whether or not a conscious decision. It was an eye opening experience about the subtleties of challenges that can take place in a variety of situations.